The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has removed Haiti, Belize, and Samoa from a list of countries whose citizens are eligible for temporary work visas to the United States, the agency announced Thursday.
Published in a Federal Register Notice (FRN), the list of countries eligible for H-2A and H-2B visas - temporary or seasonal non-immigrant work visas for agricultural and non-agricultural work, respectively is updated yearly. The most recent register, released by DHS on Wednesday, excluded the three countries.
“The decision to remove Haiti, Belize and Samoa from the H-2A & H-2B lists was made as a result of interagency coordination between DHS and the Department of State," DHS Spokesperson Katie Waldman told VOA Creole.
During the 2016 fiscal year, 65 H-2A visas were issued to Haitians. According to a DHS report from last year, roughly 40 percent of Haitians on non-immigrant visas, including but not limited to H-2A and H-2B, overstayed.
"The FRN citation of cases of Haitian nationals having high instances of fraud and abuse as well as a higher likelihood of overstaying their visas was made based on input from the State Department, in the cases of fraud, and from State and DHS related to the volume of Haitian nationals who overstay their visas and remain in the country illegally,” Waldman said.
Two hundred and seventy-six H-2B visas, for seasonal workers, were issued to citizens of Belize in the 2016 fiscal year, but the Central American country has been blocked from the program amid concerns that it does not meet U.S. standards to protect victims of trafficking, DHS said.
Though no H-2A or H-2B visas were issued to Samoans in fiscal year 2016, DHS said they had blocked the country for not taking back nationals ordered removed from the United States.
The announcement comes a week after U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly referred to Haiti as a "s---hole" country.
VOA's Creole Service contributed to this report.